Mary Todd Lincoln, the President's grief-stricken wife, was later committed to an institution by her son, Robert, who, by the way, is the only one of Lincoln's four children who survived to adulthood.
If you have not seen the movie, you probably should skip this paragraph: At the end of the movie, we see Thaddeus Stevens, a powerful Republican congressman, superbly played by Tommy Lee Jones, climb into bed with a black woman, actually, a quadroon or one-quarter black. This is true. Her name was Lydia Smith. As Peterson explains, "It was common knowledge — he had never hidden it. She was a widow and she was free. She had been married to a white man who had passed away. He adopted her children. He never married her — she was a common-law wife. She was in his will. It really bugged Mary Todd Lincoln. It's one of the many reasons why she disliked him."
Lincoln is frequently shown interrupting intense meetings to tell a slow, seemingly irrelevant story, which were usually humorous and relevant. At one point, Edwin M. Stanton, Lincoln's secretary of war, loses his temper and cries, "Not another story!" All true, says Peterson. "Stanton would go crazy when Lincoln would tell his stories. They'd be in the middle of a heavy discussion, and Lincoln would start telling a story. He was a prolific storyteller. Sometimes people would see the point, sometime they wouldn't." Stanton is also the one who says, from the side of Lincoln's deathbed, 'Now he belongs to the ages.' "
Looking back on the life of Lincoln, Peterson says, "Every once in a while, historians play the president-rating game and Lincoln is usually at the top with Washington and FDR. Crisis creates greatness. From 1820 to 1860 every Congress had a major debate about slavery. It was the great issue. He was able to solve it with 600,000 deaths. He also was able to save the union. That was something that was easier to fight for. To do that, ultimately, of course, it cost him his life. There is great similarity between him and FDR. They die at the hour of their triumph and added a touch of martyrdom, especially where Lincoln was assassinated.
"Lincoln took an oath to defend the United States. He never thought the way it was put together that secession was a possibility. And the other thing is he had moved from being just against slavery expansion to against slavery itself and wanting to make it a moral crusade. He came to that view early in the war. That was in the best interest of the country and he was willing to take people into battle to do it."
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